Thailand’s military regime, which ordered the shutdown of the country’s gold mining and exploration industry last week, is set to force Australian-owned Chatree mine to close up shop by the end of May, a senior industry ministry official said on Wednesday.
“We need to be cautious and thorough before we submit this, but it will definitely be done soon,” the source, who was referring to the official notification, told Reuters.
Chatree, located 280 kilometres north of Bangkok, is Thailand’s only active gold mine and has been the target of environmental protests over alleged contamination of nearby villagers.
Owner Kingsgate Consolidated, through its local unit Akara Resources, has denied accusations and repeatedly said it would not stop operations until receiving formal notice from the government.
In April last year, authorities ordered a 44-day suspension of activities at Chatree after random urine and blood tests showed above-standard arsenic and manganese levels in people living close to the mine.
But Kingsgate executive chairman, Ross Smyth-Kirk, said at the time that arsenic and manganese had not been used or stored at Chatree at any time in its history, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The open cut operation, which began operations in 2001, is Thailand’s largest gold mine and employs almost 1,000 workers.
As per March this year, it had produced over 1.8 million ounces of gold.